Ed Harcourt

Maplewood

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Originally released in 2001, this EP marks the beginning of Ed Harcourt's solo career. The specter of Tom Waits looms very large (with a bizarre stop off at Bill Frissell's Ghost Town) on "I've Become Misguided"; there's even talk of "an old trombone" and "weird things happening under the floorboards." In "He's Building a Swamp," he sings of "living in a burnt out Cadillac/sleeping in a sack/never leaving the track." Remember, this is somebody from the South Coast of England; a beige Mondeo doesn't have the same resonance, so instead we have tired pastiche. Similarly, "The Whistle of a Distant Train" struggles to be poignant, but sounds like a mournful karaoke over a backing of "In the Neighbourhood." Elsewhere there are hints of Beck, especially the chorus of "Hanging With the Wrong Crowd." The ventriloquism continues apace with Bono taking full possession of the Harcourt vocal cords in the strangely free-associative track, "Apple of My Eye": "I'm sick of this angst/don't need thanks/you're the apple of my eye." The best track is "Attaboy Go Spin a Yarn," which is saved by some welcome irony: "I'm not one for nostalgia/don't really like the past...it seems so easy to reflect on times gone by/I expect you'll spin a yarn 'til you die." Hardcourt has some talent, but he really doesn't have his own voice yet. Give him a few more years, and if the originality doesn't kick in, a lucrative career as an impressionist beckons.

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